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Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital ready for COVID-19 tests
02:00 am GMT+12, 25/05/2020, Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital (NRH) is now ready to undertake COVID-19 tests.
And Health minister Dickson Mua said the availability of the COVID-19 testing capability is another milestone achievement of the ministry and all those involved as partners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He was speaking last week at the launch of the testing machines donated by China and Australia.
Mua said following the completion of the Molecular Laboratory construction and installment of the two (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) qPCR machines, the country is now ready to test COVID-19 samples.
“The ministry as part of its commitment has developed in-country capacity to prepare and respond to COVID -19 which now able to test for COVID -19 patients in the country,” he said.
Mua said the laboratory is a standard one as it met all requirements to be able to test samples.
He said currently they are looking forward to conducting tests on all the stranded citizens coming in from abroad on their arrival and as well as other tests after they complete their 28 days of quarantine.
“Not only that, all the front-liners who are working at the molecular lab, as well as those who handle the suspected cases, will also undergo testing,” he said.
He thanked Australia and China for their assistance in providing those two qPCR which was installed at the refurbished COVID-19 testing Laboratory at the NRH.
Mua said their assistance has really helped Solomon Islands to build its testing capability of the COVID-19.
He said the machines can conduct around 1000 tests and it takes only five hours to get the results.
“Previously, the NRH and the MHMS depends entirely on expertise on the Virology Laboratory in Australia as we all know to support test of COVID-19 but today we have our very own testing laboratory with now a short period of time to know the results unlike previously we have to wait for up to five to seven days before we obtain the results,” he said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has handed over additional equipment and suppliers from its previous support as part of equipping the quarantine centre at Henderson, the National Referral Hospital triage and isolation facilities as well as to support the refurbishment of the isolation centre in Auki and a new isolation facility n Gizo.  
WHO Representative in the Solomon Islands, Dr Sevil Huseynova made the official handover of the equipment at the NRH last Wednesday.
“Today we are pleased to handover some more biomedical equipment and supplies including PPEs (such as N95 masks and gowns), oxygen concentrators, patient monitors, ECG machines and other related ICU equipment for use in the Isolation ward for the treatment of confirmed COVID-19 cases,” she said.
Huseynova said they are also in the process of sourcing ventilators to ensure the ICU can provide critical care. 
“We are very grateful to Australian Government support to complement our funds for these procurements,” she added.
She said WHO’s priority is limiting the impact of COVID-19 on people’s health across the globe and help countries to prepare and implement national COVID-19 preparedness and response and plans.
“WHO is helping strengthen laboratories across the globe, including the Pacific region to have the necessary equipment, testing reagents and supplies, to deliver accurate and timely results.”
Huseynova said in Solomon Islands, one of the key areas they are supporting is in working with the MHMS and partners to strengthen laboratory services and testing capacities.
“Today we are pleased to announce this joint effort has resulted in a molecular virology laboratory which will be able to provide both GeneXpert and qPCR testing for COVID-19.
“WHO has contributed to this achievement through repurposing its technical staff to support laboratory and surveillance strengthening activities, and in leveraging its WHO Regional Office laboratory networks,” she added.
She said WHO rapidly completed an in-depth laboratory assessment for the readiness of qPCR COVID-19 testing capacity.
“This assessment identifies key gaps in the proposed laboratory function and provided clear recommendations that were used in redesigning a laboratory space that is now safe and fit for purpose. WHO has provided qPCR reagents and RNA materials; as well guidance to ensure SOPs and testing processes can be validated and are best practice,” she said.
“This will ensure a qPCR testing platform that will have great sensitivity, accuracy and can be used for higher throughout testing,” Huseynova added.
She said currently there are two main types of testing platforms for COVID-19.
“The first is PCR based testing-such as the GeneXpert and new qPCR machines received whilst the second is the serology test or blood test, which is antibody-based.
“The PCR-based tests are better telling whether you’ve been infected recently or in the past and determine how many people in a population have been infected,” she said.
Huseynova said governments need to focus initially on PRC-based testing that detects active infection, so we can trace, isolate, and treat our patients.
“On the other hand, the GeneXpert system is more suited for surveillance testing functions and will be most effectively sued for COVID-19 testing in the provinces, where the majority of the machines are located.”
She said the WHO Director-General advocated for current GeneXpert COVID-19 cartridges to come to Pacific island countries as a priority.


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